Dating is very common in today’s western cultures. In high school, many students consider dating as ‘cool’, if one is over a certain age and they are not dating or married, friends or family take it upon themselves to try and ‘set them up’ with someone. Internet dating is common and yet, dating hasn’t always been so busy. Not too long ago in the time of when my European grandparents were growing up, both families of interested parties where to meet together first, then my grandparents could date. Even so, in their meetings they couldn’t be alone but had to have a chaperone with them. Funny stories abound of how they tried to ‘lose’ the chaperone so they could be by themselves. In some cultures, it is still so, and in others, dating is still frowned upon and any affection in public prohibited. Some cultures still have ‘arranged marriages’ where the dating and engagement period are missed and the marriage arrangement is made between the two families. Then the girl and the boy would be given some time to speak alone but within eye sight of their families and their wedding follows some weeks later.
One of the main reasons for the chaperone culture was to ensure that young men and women didn’t get carried away with physical attraction and sexual intimacy. These factors can cloud the judgement of couples in discerning potential married partners. One might think that putting some guidelines and boundaries on dating is weird, outdated or insensitive and yet maybe something can be learnt from the above mentioned cultures. .
Sexual temptation is rampant in the world. You just have to turn on the TV and it’s staring you right in the face. Internet pornography is very accessible and is highly addictive. It is a real challenge to avoid sex before marriage. This addiction can destroy the person’s capacity to commit to a life-long relationship.
Chastity is the way to go. It’s not much promoted in the media and yet it’s value remains priceless! To be chaste is to live life according to your vocation, to your state in life. For married couples it is to be faithful to their spouses to the exclusion of another.
In the context for chastity of the engaged, it allows for the best preparation so you can see who the other person is and not end up starting the practice of using each other. Building this virtue before marriage is a great help. Living it before marriage, will help after marriage.
For single people it is to live a life of service and to help build a better world and by refraining from sex outside of marriage (see post on Being Single and Happy).
Chastity, if lived properly, can bring about major changes in the world e.g. less family breakups, less stress, less need for counselling, less heartaches, less temptation, less killings through abortion, less jealousy…but stimulate happier spouses, happier children, united families, better society, improved health and longer life… It is hard to be chaste and pure when there is such a current to live otherwise, to live and do what you like and feels right, but it can be done and with the grace of God, many are walking in this path. Wouldn’t you want to be the difference in the world?.
In reality, dating is more than just a friendship or an acquaintance or simply to pass time or have someone to have fun with. It’s looking to the greater picture, dating could lead to being engaged and then marriage. Dating is about getting to know the other person and to see if you are called to spend the rest of your life with them in Marriage.
‘How would I know that they are the right one for me?’ ‘How long should I date for?’ ‘I like them, but is this enough to know if we are meant to be together?’ ‘Should I have a list of qualities that I would like the other to have before I even agree to date them?’ ‘Should they tick all the boxes or am I just being too paranoid?’ ‘Does love at first sight really exist?’ ‘I don’t want to end up getting used and hurt’… These are the type of thoughts that one might be thinking before or while they are dating. Asking questions are normal and important as you’re trying to figure out whether they are the ONE!
It is good to have a certain standard in your mind of what kind of a person you would like to spend your life with. Someone who shares the same ideas and beliefs as you, especially regarding marriage and family, this can be a great asset and many arguments could be avoided later on.
Prayer is one of the most important aspects in dating. Praying together is a wonderful way to build relationship and God can guide you in your time of discernment and decisions. Personal prayer is also necessary as you ask God to enlighten and lead you throughout this time.
Communication is another important point. Through communicating, spending time with each other, doing activities together, you get to know your boyfriend or girlfriend on a whole new level and what they think about various topics e.g. marriage, family, children, their likes and dislikes, etc.
Working on a project together e.g. volunteering in the community can help in building relationship and while not idling away the time, doing something constructive can provide a sense of achievement and good practise in working together.
Respecting one another as a person in their entirety (physically, emotionally, spiritually), wanting the good of the other and trying to bring out the best in one another is a handy tool to help one get to know the other better. While dating, hormones will rage but keeping the above in mind will help in channelling them to better use. Who knows, in this time of discernment (dating), things might end up that you go your separate ways. They might end up being someone else’s husband or wife but in the meantime your ONE is out there and wouldn’t you want him or her to be respected by the people around them?
The above points are by no means exhaustive, but hopefully they help in carving out a path for better dating with less heartache which could lead on to the next stage of getting engaged.
Check out: http://chastityproject.com/